On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 32: Jacob's Vow

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee." (Genesis 28:20-22 RSV)

The Old Testament Patriarch Jacob had just awakened after a dream-filled night. He had been given the promise that his ancestors had been given: his descendants will receive the land promised by God, and from Jacob’s seed would come Him who would give all blessings to the world. He had seen the ladder joining earth and heaven, a very early picture of the role of the Theotokos, Mary the Mother of God, in the salvation of all humanity. Now Jacob would be on a journey to find a wife.

Jacob could have reasoned, like many today, that this dream was only a phantom of the night, and the voice that told him of the promise – well, he was just hearing things. And the promises Jacob made? That he will give back to God a tenth of all that God will have given him? That he would build God a dwelling place? Well, these were made under the duress of a bad dream, and he was just hearing voices. Jacob could have thought that way.

But he did not. It was not until many years later that Jacob returned to his homeland. It took him at least fourteen years of work for his uncle Laban to earn for himself both Leah and Rachel as wives. But when he returned, having become a wealthy man, he give back to God exactly what he said he would, and more.

Many in our day fail where Jacob was successful. Many in our day who have the greatest economic success in their lives are the ones who have the strongest inclinations to keep for themselves what they have.  When Jesus told the parable of the servant who must keep close watch while the master is away, His intent was to remind His hearers that everyone has responsibility for what is given. “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Luke 12:48).

Much was given to Patriarch Jacob: he had twelve sons by Leah and Rachel, he had much land, many servants, much livestock – he was blessed greatly. And before God would even require of him anything in return, Jacob had already made his promise. He would return to God a large portion of those things that God had given to him.

 This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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